Thursday, March 01, 2012

Premature rejoicing over marriage?

I don't want to put a dampener on the celebrations surrounding the rise in weddings after a 40 year decline, but is this really a pointer to a revival in marriage, or is it just an increase in weddings?
I've long held the view that the Christian fixation with marriage when it is not allied with a determination to build strong and healthy relationships is just another game with statistics. Call me cynical, but a wedding doesn't make a marriage. I remember working with someone who had been in a long-term relationship with their partner and together they decided to get married. Within a pretty short space of time they had separated and gone their own ways. Now maybe the relationship was already in trouble, but the bottom line is that getting married didn't fix anything that might have been wrong.
A few years ago there was an interview with a couple who were both what you might call serial "marriers". I think they were on their 4th or 5th marriage at the time of the interview. They were talking about how much they had to offer in terms of counsel for those getting married because they had been married so many times. It seemed to me that what they actually had to offer was lots of advice on how to marry but not necessarily on how to build a long lasting relationship.
This, to me, is the key. Not how many marriages there are in a given year, but how many deep and healthy relationships are being built and sustained over the long haul. If all we are doing as the church is encouraging people to get married, then we are failing them spectacularly.
It's great that people are getting married, but let's get over the the idea that this somehow suggests that marriage is coming back into fashion. We live in a highly disposable society and relationships are just one of the casualties of such a society.
The real hope lies in the statistics that marriage provides a strong foundation for a long relationship, that people who are married are more likely to put in the effort to resolve their issues and this in turn has a knock on effect of teaching children and young people about working at our relationships.
If there is evidence that this is happening then it really would be a cause for rejoicing.

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